From a Sydenham youth worker:
"When we saw my boyfriend’s bike being stolen by two hooded monsters, we ran out to get in back. I saw the youth in their faces, and shouted ‘stop I’m a youth worker!’ After some reasoning he gave the bike back. My boyfriend walked back to re-chain to our friend’s bike, but I remained. I couldn’t just let them go without asking why? He told me ‘what man, I gave the bike back?’. I replied, ‘I don’t care about the bike. It’s just a bike. I care about you. What about you? What are you good at?’ He looked at me, his smaller friend silent the whole time. ‘What are you good at!’ I yelled. ‘Nothing’. Tears pricked my eyes. Familiar tears. The ones I leave the classroom sometimes to have in the toilet. ‘Don’t say that. Don’t say nothing.’ He had no words for me. ‘You’re better than this. You’re better than being a thief.’ He was silent. What he didn’t do was run away or get angry. He didn’t pull out whatever it was he cut the bike lock with and he didn’t jab it in me. He simply looked at me, without any answers."
In the short term, the present strategy of flooding the streets of London with 16,000 police officers, enforcing the law throughout the city, and avoiding the use of any of the heavy-handed methods moronically being suggested by certain people within the media seems the best way forward. In the long term, policing in London needs to change to better avoid the antagonism that is well known to anyone living in London's poorer areas, and whilst I don't believe that more spending can be the answer, some solution must be found for the violent and crime-ridden lives of Britain's urban youth.
[Picture: Riot police in Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, London, taken by Flickr user hozinja, via Wikipedia]